The view of the Garonne River that flows through Toulouse before morning meetings.
The view of the Garonne River that flows through Toulouse before morning meetings.

What I Discovered about Higher Education in France through Fulbright

By Wesley Young, director of Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS), Global Affairs

UC Davis Services for International Students and Scholars Director Wesley Young shares about what he learned as a part of the Fulbright International Education Administrators (IEA) Seminar to France.

I was privileged to have been selected as one of 12 U.S. participants of the Fulbright International Education Administrators (IEA) Seminar to France in October of 2017. This two-week program was part cultural exchange and part opportunity to learn about the French higher education and research system. Our visits were concentrated in Toulouse, Paris, and Brussels.

As one result of this intensive program, I discovered three often misunderstood things about studying in France.

1. France is more than a place to study culture, such as art history, literature, and music.

It’s true; France is a wonderful place to study culture, art history, literature, and music. However, it is also a great place to study engineering and a range of topics in the physical sciences and technology. 

We learned that Toulouse, in southwestern France, is a hub for the European aerospace industry. This was no accident as there are universities and research institutes that exist in the area to provide the training for researchers and workers. 

We met with leaders from the Université Fédérale de Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées, who explained the close relationship between programs at the university and the local aerospace industry. It was clear that the French government has long made efforts to ensure that public universities were graduating students based on the needs of industry.

Airbus factory in Toulouse
The Fulbright International Education Administrators (IEA) Seminar to France group (Director of Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) Wesley Young third from left, kneeling) at the Airbus factory in Toulouse.

We also toured the Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC), and ISAE-Supaero, where there is training and research to support the aerospace industry. Toulouse is also the home of Airbus.

2. It’s not too hard to study in France if you don’t know the language.

In fact, there are a growing number of graduate programs that can be done entirely in English. Campus France provides information on 700 undergraduate and graduate programs, from summer courses to full degree programs, all taught in English. You do not have to be fluent in French to study in France.

3. It’s not too expensive to study in France.

There are many degree programs, as well as summer-only programs, that are pretty reasonable by U.S. standards. Many degree programs are in the range of 300 to 10,000 euros per year for tuition. Some summer-only programs available are less expensive than U.S. study abroad programs. In many cases, French government subsidies for university students are also provided to international students. Here are just a few examples of programs all taught in English:

  • Undergraduate summer four-week program in engineering at the Institute Catholique d’Arts et Métiers in Lille is 2,700 euros (including on-campus accommodation & meals).
  • Undergraduate and graduate summer four-week program in humanities and social sciences at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Lille is 2,000 euros.
  • Master’s degree in Quantitative Finance and Risk Management at Ecole Internationale des Sciences du Traitement de l'Information – Cergy Graduate School in Engineering for 7,000 euros per year for two years.
  • Master’s degree in Public Policy and Development at the Paris School of Economics for around 250 euros per year for PSE-EEP, plus 198 euros for Social Security (if you are under 28 years old) for two years.
  • Master’s degree in Civil Engineering – Materials and Structures in their environment at Ecole Centrale de Nantes for 6,000 euros per year for two years.

All of these discoveries were why I wasn’t surprised to see The PIE News report this January that the attractiveness of France as a study destination for international students continues to grow.

Sorbonne in Paris
The Fulbright International Education Administrators (IEA) Seminar to France group (Director of Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) Wesley Young third from right) at the Sorbonne in Paris.

During this Fulbright Seminar in France, the many opportunities to meet with higher education leaders to discuss the similarities, differences, and opportunities (such as the ones outlined above) of our work in higher education made it a fascinating two weeks.

There are comparable Fulbright IEA programs to India, Taiwan, Russia (for community colleges), Japan, South Korea, and Germany. I would be happy to share more details of my experience with those interested in applying.

More information on Fulbright opportunities at UC Davis can be found on the Global Affairs website. The next Fulbright Scholar Program workshop for UC Davis faculty and administrators interested in applying for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program is on May 18 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. at the International Center.

About Global Affairs

Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 8,400 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty studying and researching internationally-and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world's most pressing problems through more than 150 international partnerships.

Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is now in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.

About the Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

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